Review: Hofesh Shechter Company Dancers in In Good Company at The Place

Performance: 18 June 2011
Reviewed by Eleanor Sikorski - Tuesday 21 June 2011

Hofesh Shechter Company dancers, 2011.

*In Good Company*, a programme of dance choreographed and performed by members of Hofesh Shechter’s company, is an evening riddled with six packs, darkened with angst and bottled with loud music. The combination of these stormy elements leaves the work well and truly ensconced in the influence of Shechter’s own work.

While watching the five new pieces, I soon realise that I cannot judge their quality by measuring their similarity or difference to Shechter’s own work. These young choreographers are working every day, creating and dancing for Shechter: his artistic field and his creative interests have understandably become their own. Whether there are arms filled with fierce impact, thighs hovering and bouncing with watery strength, fingers twitching, dim lights, philosophical voiceovers, casual comic interjections or thumping bass – all signatures of Shechter’s work – it does not matter whether we have seen it all before. What matters is if these pieces can stand their own ground as works of choreography. Well, can they?

Maëva Berthelot’s piece, *Fifteen Minutes of Infinity (A Postcard of the Absolute)* offers a strange combination of elusiveness and humour. The body of the work is a solo danced by Berthelot. The lighting design, sound composition, movement and projection, are all coming together for the first time on stage, and leave her writhing in a captivating plait of visibility and invisibility, silhouette and light. She is earnest but her intention evades me. The text which sandwiches the solo throws humour onto the sincerity of the dance but only for a moment. The sweeping philosophising of the words alongside the drama of the movement gives me so much that I am left with the desire to take nothing.

_*Yesterday’s Bird* _by Jason Jacobs is a duet for himself and the violinist Andrew Maddick. A clownish relationship develops between them: Jacobs’ movement and Maddick’s sounds corresponding and conversing, much as they would if they were wide eyed graduates from the Charlie Chaplin School of Comedy. The simplicity allows for the audience to make a satisfying investment in the performers’ bond, but the structural rhythm becomes predictable and the piece feel like it should end at least twice before the lights actually dim.

Sita Ostheimer’s *Noble Thinking* _is like a trailer for a longer piece. The highlights of a domestic drama (pretty looks and boiling undercurrents) packed into a short flickering edit. A man and a phone, a woman with some shoes, in separate boxes of light, switch between glaring composure and edgy madness. The piece flies around like a ball in a squash court, providing absurd and comic turns. Sex drives the narrative and the humour – we hear abrupt snippets of post-coital conversation: _’Did you come?’ ‘Nope, did you?’ ‘No.’ The movement suggests great depth of emotion and character but the episodic nature of the piece shackles any potential for me to become attached or really curious.

One thing that jumps at me from this whole programme of dance is the disparity between the great confidence, exuberance and control with which the dancers perform, and their excitable, slightly out of control, approach to choreography. Considering their experience in each field it is not surprising that this is the case. The specificity of Shechter’s movement research, which sits so absolutely in their bodies, is concise and focused – the choreography lacks this specificity.

The fourth piece, _*No Face* _by Chien-Ming Chang, seems to be a showcase for Chang’s own physical prowess rather than an expression of his interest in choreographic exploration. He follows the music like a boat follows the waves (unrelentingly) and this compositional flatness drowns out the excitement of his dancing. There are silent leaps and rhythmical pulsings alongside dubious comic gestures. The cloth covering Chang’s face trains our focus to his (radiant) six pack.

The highlight of the evening, in my opinion, is Philip Hulford’s *Holding Dead*. The piece bears the strongest resemblance to Shechter’s work but holds its own thanks to it’s sensitivity to development and detail. The dancers, Hulford and James Finnemore, spend most of the time in complete unison but the subtle development of their relationship (Hulford establishing himself as a slightly twitchy, ape-like, observer of his partner) and their not-overbearing synchronicity with the music (composed by Hulford) creates a concise and intriguing narrative. A narrative which is created only using highly studied movement and an exploration of the postures and habits which represent and define social status. The movement is exquisite and the humour, rather than being token, emerges quietly from the dark to surprise us. Hulford has made a piece which isn’t afraid of stillness and repetition – a sign of confidence, surely.

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